Dew in the desert

Unity: Psalm 133

Lately it seems that churches and church leaders have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. A week ago Gallup released poll figures that show less than 50% of the people in the United States belong to a Christian church. A milestone that the church is not celebrating. We are left wondering why our leaders are falling and our churches failing.

On Easter our churches gathered across the world; we read the same scripture, preached the same gospel message, and even sang some of the same songs. We share a common desire for people to come to know Christ, to experience new life and live with the certain hope of eternal life. And yet we are divided by nationality, class, race, creed, and yes, political party. It seems that a lot of energy is expended on accentuating our differences and building fences out of fear that the wrong people may infiltrate our ranks, instead of living confidently in the assurance that Christ is Lord even of the church. Could that be at least part of the reason why the Western church is failing to be effective minister’s of God’s grace; that there is a disconnect between our Sunday worship and the rest of our life, even the actions of our churches and its leaders?

As we move through this season after Easter, I pray that we won’t forget Christ’s prayer for unity in the garden. I pray that we will remember that on Easter Sunday we proclaimed a unified gospel message one that needs to continue to unify us as together we work to bring Christ’s healing to a hurting and divided world.

Prayer of Confession With Psalm 133

This prayer and words of assurance will work best if one voice reads the scripture passages and another the rest of the text. You could also choose to have the congregation participate by reading the bold text.

“How good and pleasant it is
     when God’s people live together in unity!”

Lord, forgive us
for our inclination to speak ill of others,
     rather than build them up;
to sow seeds of disunity,
     rather than find our unity in you;
to desire separation,
     rather than inclusion;
to be filled with fear of those outside our gates,
     rather than practice the radical hospitality you taught.

Forgive us for not celebrating the diversity present in your creation.
The diversity of worship expressions
     that together still don’t come close to the worship you are due.
The diversity of languages, skin colors, and ethnicities each bearing your image
     yet together don’t encapsulate your beauty.
The diversity of theological perspectives
     that rather than being seen as a threat and attacked,
     can be opportunities to exemplify healthy respectful dialogue
     even helping us clarify our own beliefs.
The diversity of political perspectives
     that when listened to with open hearts
     can lead to a greater understanding of underlying motivations
     and when focused on the well-being of all people
          rather than individual wealth and promotion
     can lead to creative solutions.
Forgive us for not celebrating the diversity present in your creation.

“It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.”

Lord, help us to remember that you have anointed us to be your servants.
Servants who spread the fragrance of your grace and peace wherever we go.
That our anointing is not something that can be put on when convenient.
     That we can’t choose when to act justly, and love mercy
          but that you have called us to live daily as your disciples.
That our anointing means that our relationships with others needs to reflect you.
     That how we act in the school hallway, on the sports field, in the lunchroom,
          needs to be a testimony that we belong to you.
     That our anointing makes a difference in how we treat our employees
          and how we respond to our employers,
          in how we conduct our business, run errands, and treat those who serve us.
Lord, help us to remember that you have anointed us to be your servants.

“It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.”

Lord, in the parched and cracked reality of our churches
     help us desire the life-giving nourishment that you provide.
Send your Holy Spirit into our churches and into our lives,
     so that new life can burst forth.

May beauty and growth appear in such unexpected places
     that it catches the attention of even the most cynical unbeliever
     and that together we may declare that
“Truly you are the Son of God.”

“For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.”

Jesus Christ, help us desire your blessing
     and seek true unity as your people
     so that we may experience abundant life.
Amen.

Assurance of Pardon from John 20:21–23

Jesus greeted his disciples with these words after his resurrection.
Hear them anew today:

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
And with that he breathed on them and said,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven;
if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

               —John 20:21-23

Joyce Borger, an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, is editor of Reformed Worship and director of Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church.